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FEATURE OF THE WEEK: The last resort Don’t be hasty when considering firing an employee

Donald Trump makes it seem so easy. Whenever the tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star rejects a wannabe employee on T...


Donald Trump makes it seem so easy. Whenever the tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star rejects a wannabe employee on The Apprentice, he sends them away with a blunt “you’re fired.”

Real-life employee terminations shouldn’t be taken so lightly.

Generally, those who work for inter-provincial and international for-hire fleets are protected by the Canada Labour Code, while local operations, private fleets, and companies travelling within individual provincial boundaries are governed by provincial rules. And all of the rules govern procedures that need to be followed when disciplining employees.

The days when angered employers could fire employees on the spot are gone, says David Leroux of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). “The philosophy of today is to keep the person employed.”

The preferred approach of “progressive discipline” offers employees an opportunity to correct their actions, he says. A driver accused of minor misconduct, such as a screaming match with a dispatcher, should be called in for a face-to-face meeting, informed why their actions were unacceptable, and told of disciplinary actions that will follow if the problem repeats itself. Someone who has been careless or negligent in their duties, meanwhile, should be presented with an opportunity to correct the problem, through something such as additional training.

Of course, drivers accused of severe misconduct such as a theft can be immediately fired through a summary dismissal.

But whenever you decide to discipline or dismiss an employee, it’s important to follow procedures that can be referenced in the event of challenges.

The trucking industry accounts for 78% of complaints filed under the Canada Labour Code, and most of them relate to questions about owed wages and wage-related benefits, Leroux says.

The first three months on the job are “fair game time” in which there is no requirement for notice or rationale for a dismissal, he says. Many employers look at this as a probationary period. But an inter-provincial trucker is eligible to receive two weeks notice or the equivalent pay if they’ve been on the job between three and 12 months.

If a driver files a complaint about the way they were fired or the money they are owed, HRSDC inspectors or adjudicators can be assigned to deliver binding decisions involving anything from financial settlements to the reinstatement of jobs. (Adjudicators are called in when the decisions of inspectors are appealed). The decisions you make throughout the entire disciplinary process will play a key role in any rulings. As such, be sure to:

Be clear in your expectations – Ensure contracts and discipline-related documents clearly outline all job requirements, and the disciplinary action that can occur if expectations are not met. Any corrective procedures should be applied consistently throughout your business. Don’t play favourites.

Act immediately – You may be perceived to be condoning poor work performance or other problems if you let them continue for too long.

Keep it private – Disciplinary meetings should be held face-to-face, in private and conducted professionally, dealing with facts rather than personalities.

Follow the process – Proper procedures need to be followed in every disciplinary case, no matter what the circumstances may be. Leroux, for example, recalls one case in which a driver strayed from his scheduled route for a liaison with his lover. The lover’s husband took issue with the meeting, shot up the driver’s truck and burned the vehicle and its contents to the ground. A clear case of misconduct for the driver? Perhaps. But the proper procedures still needed to be followed in case of a challenge.

Keep a complete paper trail – Keep thorough records of any disciplinary actions. “If this (firing) eventually goes to an adjudicator, how you reached that decision and how you attempted to avoid this decision is going to be important,” Leroux says. You’ll want to keep a written record listing dates of meetings, training sessions, warnings, and performance reviews. Have employees sign documents to indicate that they understand the nature of any disciplinary action. It’s also essential to begin keeping records from the moment you first speak to an employee about a problem.

Judge each case on its own merits – As clear-cut as a case may appear, it’s important to judge each situation individually. Theft or a physical assault may be clear grounds for an immediate dismissal, but there may be extenuating circumstances around cases involving problems such as insubordination.

For more information, contact the HRSDC’s Labour Program at 1-800-567-6866, or go HERE for a list of regional offices. For a brochure outlining progressive discipline procedures, go to HERE.

The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated non-profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors that is representative of stakeholders from the Canadian trucking industry. With the conviction that the best human resources skills and practices are essential to the attainment of excellence by the Canadian trucking industry, the mission of the Council is “to assist the Canadian trucking industry to recruit, train and retain the human resources needed to meet current and long-term requirements.” For more information, go to www.cthrc.com.


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